Thursday, January 26, 2012

Clearwater Beach Bargains

I recently returned from spending time in beautiful Clearwater Beach, a resort on the west coast of Florida (and in some ways wish I were still there.) I was pleased to discover that there are still many bargains in the area, particularly on restaurants. This is now high season, so lodging bargains are scarcer.
Most restaurants in this part of the world serve basically American fare, though there are also ethnic eateries. One of the best of the latter is the Columbia Restaurant, a Cuban place with more than 100 years at its original Tampa location. There are several branches, including one on Sand Key where in good weather you can eat right beside the inland waterway, where you can sometimes see dolphins frolicking. I usually have the arroz con pollo or chicken with yellow rice, a filling dish I remember from childhood when I visited the Tampa restaurant with my parents. At $8.95 it is a tasty bargain, especially considering it is served with warm bread. The large house salad is also very good, a meal in itself.
Bob Heilman's Beachcomber on Clearwater Beach is known for its good but pricey home cooking. But at the associated Bobby's Wine Bistro, you can enjoy a burger and a glass of good wine for a very reasonable price--less than $20 per person, and it too comes with warm homemade bread.
The Sandpearl is a new luxury hotel that stands on the site where the Clearwater Beach Hotel was for about 100 years. Its restaurant is moderately priced for lunch, especially if you pass on the alcohol. I was not much impressed by a grilled chicken sandwich, but a friend raved about a steak sandwich that cost $12. This place has a great view of the beach, and pleasant service.
Perhaps the best bargain among the more elegant restaurants is at the Island Way Grill on Clearwater Beach. It is an early bird special, which means you have to order by 5:30 p.m. But if you do, you get two early dinners for $25, and low prices on house wines and house drinks. Best of all, the meals are filling and very tasty. Try the salmon croquettes or other seafood dishes. I particularly love the mashed potatoes made with pungent wasabi mustard, which come with virtually every choice. Save this restaurant for a time when you are especially hungry.

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